Feedback: June 4, 2016by The Listener
Media merger fears, houses for Aucklanders and Israel, and anti-Semitism.
Canon Media Awards
The Listener had a superb night at this year’s Canon Media Awards. Rebecca Macfie won the major individual award – the Wolfson Press Fellowship to the University of Cambridge – as well as politics feature writer and health feature writer of the year.
The judges, who described Macfie’s collection of award-winning features as “superb” and “inspirational”, said Macfie’s story on cancer sufferer and euthanasia campaigner Lecretia Seales “has already set the scene for a series of events that will one day lead to the change the late Seales sought”.
Donna Chisholm won the inaugural nib Health Journalism Scholarship – senior category, recognising excellence in health journalism – as well as science & technology feature writer of the year. The judges said that in her “touching and revealing account” of foetal screening, “she presents a warm and positive side to what would otherwise be a difficult subject”.
Jane Clifton won politics opinion writer of the year, with the judges saying she “is so completely in command of her subject matter – and so funny and clever – that she continues to set the standard for political commentary in New Zealand”.
Paul Thomas won sports opinion writer of the year for his “very well-crafted” pieces that “captured the essence of what sport in general and rugby and the All Blacks in particular mean to New Zealanders”.
In addition, Chris Slane, Jennifer Bowden and Charlotte Grimshaw were finalists for cartoonist of the year, health reporter of the year and reviewer of the year, respectively.
CLEAN POWER TO MORE PEOPLE
The cover story about electricity (“Power to the people”, May 28) predicts a shift away from big fossil-fuelled power stations to decentralised solar energy. What looks like a simple replacement of one resource by another has a much deeper meaning: until now, our power generation has been based on finite resources such as gas, coal, oil and geothermal. Even hydro power is a finite resource, as there are limited places for dams.
Exploiting a limited resource results in ever increasing costs because one has to dig or drill deeper or use larger dams for the same output. What’s worse, in a system where increased output results in higher cost rather than lower, competition remains elusive. Witness the relentless power price rises over the past decades.
Now we are at the cusp of a sea change: solar energy is a truly unlimited resource – at least for the next couple of billion years. Its use will affect all aspects of our lives. It also will finally help us to curb climate change, because just as the Stone Age ended with a lot of stones left over, so the carbon age will end because something better is available.
Pattrick Smellie and Fiona Rotherham exhort us to “Think about this … the sun is predicted to be the main source of the world’s electricity.” I have thought about it and I can advise the writers that the sun was, is and will always be the only “source” of the world’s electricity, no matter how it is generated.
When the sun goes out, we go out with it. Think about it.
MEDIA MERGER FEARS
Thank you for a outlining the background to the proposed Fairfax-NZME merger (Editorial, May 28). Democracy and the free exchange of information and knowledge are key to the health and well-being of society.
Clickbait is a travesty. People read headlines online and think they know what is happening in the world. We need to be able to trust the integrity of journalists who work to a code of ethics to provide quality reporting for New Zealanders. Local government elections to be held later this year are a case in point.
I appreciate the Listener’s longer articles and enjoy RNZ National’s coverage of current affairs. Alas, these do not give in depth coverage of South Island concerns. For that, give me a newspaper any day.
Letter of the week
WHERE WAS THE CHURCH?
Thanks for the insightful and compassionate editorial on sexual abuse by clergy (“Sins of the fathers”, May 21). As was pointed out, the offending priest “was not alone in the dock”, for the Catholic Church was itself on trial.
Surely the church cannot pay off the victims with cash and then wash its hands of its many mistakes in this ongoing saga of sexual offending. Putting a young, untrained priest in a girls’ college to counsel troubled and vulnerable adolescents is hard to understand, much less justify. The priest in question acknowledged his guilt, but there was no church representative present in support of offender or victims.
These four young women have suffered both psychological and spiritual pain for more than 40 years. Perhaps the church might now help them by providing the kind of professional counselling they deserved when they were students.
We know that victims of sexual abuse can be healed and freed from residual feelings of shame and guilt. It is probably too late for restorative justice, but justice is due from the church, however belatedly, especially in this “Year of Mercy”.
HOUSES FOR AUCKLANDERS
There has been much hand-wringing in Auckland over escalating property prices, climbing rents, people living in garages and cars, lack of emergency housing and increasing homelessness. Lots of partial solutions have been mooted, but perhaps the most obvious has been overlooked.
Depending on which commentator you hear from, there appear to be between 15,000 and 20,000 empty houses in the city. If only half of them suddenly became available, it would make a significant difference to virtually all of the issues set out above.
It would only take John Key, Nick Smith or Len Brown to introduce a new law or regulation such that any Auckland property remaining empty for more than three months, without good reason, be compulsorily acquired on a temporary basis by either the Government or Auckland Council. Properties so acquired would then be put in the hands of a property manager, who would put the dwelling on the rental market. The property manager would receive all rents, handle all necessary maintenance issues and pass the balance of the money to the property owner.
(Glen Eden, Auckland)
ISRAEL AND ANTI-SEMITISM
Leo Ovshtein’s letter (May 21) illustrates three constants in the Palestine-Israel war of words. First, apologists for Israel never let even tangential censure of that state go unattacked. Second, they deliberately conflate “Semitic” with “Jewish” and both with Zionism. Third, they invariably use anti-Semitism as a smear against even the most balanced critic.
Some facts: the term “Semite” properly refers to both Arabs and Jews. Zionism is a political creed predicated on Israel as a Jewish state. Not all Jews share that creed, let alone all Semites.
Three of the four people in the film Notes to Eternity referred to by Ovshtein as “extremists” are Jews, so to call them “anti-Semitic” is doubly bizarre. One of the three, Sara Roy, is regarded as a leading independent academic commentator on the region.
The fourth person featured, Robert Fisk, is certainly anti-Zionist, but that is a political position based on close observation of the devastation caused by successive Israeli governments.
All opinion is lopsided, in a sense, so to denigrate Helene Wong’s quite dispassionate review of the film simply because it records what director Sarah Cordery set out to do is unfair and illogical.
It’s time that pro-Israeli agitators stopped excluding the majority of Semites from that identity and it’s also time they began to accept fair comment on Israeli actions so that moderation has a chance to start healing what jingoism so clearly inflames.
CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
I am intrigued by the obsession with the need to extend the length of life (“Your best chance”, May 21). The article gives excellent advice about the adoption of healthy living. This is commendable, but once through the gateway to old age, the scene changes. At 93, I know.
Nuts, oils, tomatoes and morning runs are not what keep the elderly going. This is achieved by the dozens of little pills prescribed by doctors – and they do work.
Medical science is amazingly successful at lengthening the lifespan, but it is a dismal failure at coming up with good reasons for doing so. Look at the result: the typical rest home has rows of chairs occupied by the still-living very old and enfeebled. Ask them how they are doing.
May I express the pleasure I had reading the Alice in Wonderland-themed travel column (“Curiouser and curiouser”, May 21).
It made me realise how foolish it is to throw away well-loved books from your past. The written word is all that stands between us and savagery, at times.
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